Why, when people ask questions about Gatekeepers to Gaming Industry do I keep talking about the Gatekeepers to Gaming Culture.
Because if one never gets into the CULTURE they are unlikely to try to get into the INDUSTRY.
See, the very first Gatekeepers to the Gaming Industry are the Gatekeepers to Gaming Culture.
Have I made myself clear? Were the words small enough? Shall I put on a puppet show, would that help?
If I seem snarky, it is because I am getting increasingly weary of re-stating the obvious. Very few people are screaming to get into an Industry which feeds a Culture/Hobby/Niche in which they are not already invested.
Even when it comes to jobs in the industry which are not actually geeky jobs (production, warehouse work), often those will be staffed with gamer geeks just wanting to be close to where the magic is made, and hoping to move up the ladder into creative positions.
So, if someone is not allowed to access that world, that culture, the chances of them seeking out a job in that industry are much, much smaller. Maybe not non-existent, but smaller.
Which makes the existence of the Gatekeepers of Industry a moot point.
What does Gatekeeping behavior look like on the Cultural level?
Gamergate is the short answer.
It starts with the youngest gamers believing that "girls will just ruin it" or that young People of Color (POC) "aren't into that stuff, so we won't even ask."
And it spreads from there like a toxic miasma.
Every single email I've gotten after I talk about playing and running GURPS, but don't care for D&D as a system that tells me to get back in the kitchen (hilarious, because Ogre does all the cooking). Yes, yes, because I like a different crunchy, mechanical system than you do and have boobs, I should leave the hobby, you mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging troglodyte.
(If I have to explain to you that "get back in the kitchen" is gendered on the supposed gender roles of a heteronormative society, just go... the rest of this will fly right over your head.)
Every time I mention, whether about gaming or comics, that female heroes who fight for a living should be dressed like they, you know, fight for a living. And I get told I'm just a jealous fat ugly prude slut (slut or whore is almost always included, and I'm baffled, I mean, how am I getting laid or getting paid for fucking people if I'm so fat and ugly, and prude?)
Every time I criticize a beloved public figure of the gaming culture, be it video or tabletop, I get threatened with death and rape. Bonus points for the dude who said I should be "raped to death" for combining them, such originality, NOT. You know, when I say REALLY unreasonable things like, "Dudes, maybe you shouldn't joke about rape," or "Transphobia isn't a good look for anyone," or even, "Maybe you should have someone to follow you around and let you know when you're being an ass because you don't seem to realize it." The other thing I get is people explaining censorship (badly and incorrectly) or the First Amendment (badly and incorrectly), or telling me that's just how men are.
No, that isn't just how men are, or even just how cis white het male gamers are. It's how Gatekeepers are.
So much Gatekeeping behavior is subconscious. Do I think these guys are sitting around consciously and actively thinking, "Let's try to keep women, minorities, and LGBTQIA folk out of gaming?"
No. (Except for facets of Gamergate)
And that makes it so much worse. They do not get or see that what they are doing is toxic because they take for granted that the world agrees with them, even when it vehemently doesn't. It is so hard to debate with those folks, because they aren't even aware they're being douchebags. They just think everyone else is placing these unreasonable demands on them.
Do I think Gygax and company purposely thought, "I know, we'll make Drau and Orcs and all the bad races darker skinned because non-white people are evil"?
No. And that's the worst part. They didn't even think about why they made those creative decisions. Biologically creatures that live underground or in places without light tend to be lighter colors, white or even translucent, not black. So it wasn't a "biology" decision. No, because they have subconsciously absorbed a trope of our racist society and didn't question it at all. That's why those races are darker skinned.
Do I think all the gaming artist dudes are all, "Women's only use is to be sexy ALL THE TIME!"?
No, but that's the way they draw them, with ridiculous armor, because they've internalized a societal trope that women must be pretty at all times in order to have any worth. Because I don't know about you, but most of the women I know do in fact keep organs in their abdomens.
And sometimes they are expressly keeping girls out, like when male gamers refuse to play with female gamers. Their reasoning may be based on subconsciously assumed tropes, that women don't like adventure stuff (I got news for you, we do), that women don't understand gaming (Ok, if I can parse the succession struggles of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, and make it understandable to regular people while drunk, then I can get gaming), that women will be overcome with lust for them and make it awkward (ok, that last one is sooooo much projection, it should be in a theater), that if women are involved it will change the dynamic...
Well, yeah, that one's true, it probably will change the dynamic a bit. You may not be comfortable saying a lot of the same stuff, you may make some serious faux pas, that the woman in question will either call you on or ask the GM to talk to you about. And/or you may have a White Knight in your group, who will probably annoy her as much as he annoys you. So, yeah, it may change the tenor of the game.
BUT if your reasoning is "women don't game, we'll have to teach her everything, therefore we shouldn't let her in?" Do you respond the same way to new male players? If so, congratulations, you're an all purpose jerk. If not, maybe think about why not.
Does adding a woman to your group mean you can't tell fart and dick jokes?
No. A lot of us know some great ones.
What it does mean is maybe think twice before creating Rapey McRapesalot as your character and claiming "historical accuracy" while playing an elf. Or maybe you should refrain from telling N-word jokes AT ALL as a decent human being, not just if a POC joins your group, same goes for queer or trans jokes.
If a woman/POC/Trans/Queer person is new to gaming, and you are all on your best behavior and they still leave, they just weren't into it.
If a woman/POC/Trans/Queer person is new to gaming and all your characters are rapists and you constantly tell jokes that hinge on a "because women are stupid," "because all F*gs are sissies," or "because brown people are lazy" punchline, IF you let them in at all, and they don't come back, then you're assholes.
And before the knicker-twisting starts, if you don't let ANYONE new into the game, then no you don't have to make exceptions for women, POC, Trans or Queer people. If you've all been gaming together since you were 12, and it's the same 6 dudes, and no one new, then fine. That's your unit, get down with your bad selves. Maybe think about why you didn't have any girls, POC, Trans or Queer people involved in the first place, but you've got your groove going.
But if you're starting up a new group, and a someone not a heterosexual white guy wants to join and you find yourself coming up with excuses for why they shouldn't, then maybe think about why. Why you don't want them there? REALLY think about it, and the tropes that have informed that.
Because odds are good you're not judging them as a person, you're judging them as a stereotype or collection of cultural tropes with no connection to who they actually are.
And if your reasoning is, "Well, we game with Bucephalus over here, and he's kind of a racist dick, so they would be uncomfortable," WHY ARE YOU HANGING ON TO A RACIST DICK INSTEAD OF A REASONABLE HUMAN BEING. I say this because racist dicks are rarely just dicks about one area.
If it's because "Burford can't keep his bloody hands to himself with women around," why are you choosing to hang out with someone who actively sexually assaults people? Because guys who push the boundaries and consent of women, frequently do it in other non-sexual ways with their male friends.
The same goes for Transphobic or Homophobic people. Sorry, I was running out of funny names.
Why would you choose to game with assholes over new people who may well be awesome?
Yeah, they might suck at it, or in other ways, but if you're already gaming with those two clowns I just mentioned, guess what?
Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Transphobia do not usually spring up in seclusion in otherwise perfectly nice people, they usually come as part of a package deal with other odious personality traits that you've been blowing off for years. I know when we started jettisoning people for these behaviors, we noticed an all around improvement in the quality of gaming we had. We could suddenly tackle topics we couldn't before because "Burford would make it weird," or "Bucephalus would go off on an N-word loaded rant." And they were often also the assholes who never brought munchies and left my table a mess.
Little girls and young POC who are denied access to gaming are unlikely to grow up to contribute to the Industry, or even be in a place where the Gatekeepers of Industry matter.
THAT is why I keep harping on Cultural Gatekeepers.
Be warned, comments will be graded for reading comprehension and I will in fact just copy paste relevant portions back to you. Because I am not your mother. If people want educated, I will educate you, but expect to be graded.